The writings of strictly orthodox rabbis leave no doubt – they spiritually accept the Jewish life style of non-religious, secular Jews, who do not follow the Jewish tradition, and they spiritually reject the Jewish life style of less orthodox Jews, who follow their own Jewish tradition (reform, conservative and even modern orthodox).
To understand why it is so, we have to remember the two keystones of Judaism as a religion in general. Those two keystones are the faith and the tradition.
The faith is complete trust or confidence in someone or something based on spiritual apprehension rather than proof.
The faith is what every person obtains directly from the “Above Supreme Power”, which the great human majority calls God. Most probably, the faith is genetically codified. The very essence of the faith is not just a belief in the existence of All-Mighty God – most importantly, it is a God-given ability to distinguish between what is right in human behavior and should be protected and enhanced and what is wrong and should be weakened and defeated.
The people’s majority is born with the faith transferred from generation to generation in the family and spiritual community. No rabbi or priest, no education system can change or recreate the faith in a person. The probable nature of genetic trials can make some in a family a “stranger” – without a family/community faith. Those “strangers” may easily leave their family and community.
The individuals born with certain faith (Jewish, Christian, etc.) are looking for the communities of the same faith to defend and strengthen their faith – together! The rabbis and priests are vital in preserving the faith – they preserve the faith by creating and guarding the tradition.
The rabbis and priests are authorities in the tradition, which is very important in nurturing and nourishing the faith.
Various religious denominations in Judaism distinguish themselves by different traditions, which are to strengthen human communications with God and – through the communications – find the understanding of what is good and bad for everything in always changing economic, political and social environments.
In the area of communications with God, the rabbis are competing with each other. They are competing by modernizing the tradition (prayers, life style, family and community ceremonies, spiritual involvement with the non-Jews) to make the tradition more understandable and usable for the Jews – to make more attractive the very spirit of God’s guidance in the Torah.
Of course, the strictly orthodox rabbis believe only they are true interpreters of God’s guidance, and only the tradition in their interpretation may connect the Jews with God. They are fiercely fighting the less orthodox Jews and their rabbis to preserve the strictly orthodox monopoly on the tradition.
The secular Jews are not modernizing the tradition – they just do not follow it whatever it may be. The secular Jews are not competing with the strictly orthodox Jews and their rabbis. Thus, the secular Jews are not the danger to the strictly orthodox religious monopoly, and that is why the strictly orthodox Jews and their rabbis respect secular Jews.
The less orthodox Jews and their rabbis are the danger – they are challenging the monopoly on the tradition – the monopoly on interpreting the God guidance codified in the Torah. That is why the strictly orthodox Jews and their rabbis detest the less orthodox.
From the news media:
On the eve of Pope Francis’s visit to Auschwitz, a US rabbi has called on him to remove a Catholic church from the premises of the Nazi death camp. The letter sent from Rabbi Avi Weiss, national president of AMCHA-Coalition for Jewish Concerns. Weiss says the presence of the church at the former death camp site is a “clear violation” of a 1987 agreement between Roman Catholic cardinals and Jewish leaders, which he says “stipulates in clear language that ‘there will be no permanent Catholic place of worship on the site of the Auschwitz and Birkenau camps.’”
Rabbi Weiss is wrong, and the World Jewish Congress President Ronald Lauder is right.
From the news media:
Pope Francis visited the Auschwitz-Birkenau former Nazi death camp in Poland, in what the World Jewish Congress President Ronald Lauder said was an important signal to the world.
In a statement Friday, Lauder praised the pontiff, who has forged ever-closer ties between the Catholic Church and Jews since his election in 2013. “Pope Francis is one of the closest allies Jews have today in the fight against anti-Semitism, bigotry and hatred,” Lauder said. “He is a true friend of the Jewish people, a man who reaches out to others and embraces them. Never over the past 2,000 years have Catholic-Jewish relations been better.” The pope’s visit “sends an important signal to the world that this dark chapter must never be forgotten and that the truth about what happened seven decades ago must not be obfuscated,” Lauder added.
The late pontiff John Paul II, who was born in Poland, visited Auschwitz in 1979. His successor, Pope Benedict XVI, visited in 2006. “Pope John Paul II came here as a son of the Polish people,” Benedictus said. “I come here today as a son of the German people. For this very reason, I can and must echo his words: I could not fail to come here.”
I am, the author of this post, commenting on Holocaust-related events not as a historian, a rabbi or a spiritual philosopher – I am commenting on these events as a Jew who belong to the community of Holocaust survivors whose extended family lost about 30 people in Holocaust.
Yes, I know the local people who called themselves Christians murdered most of my expended family – yes, mostly locals who followed their dark anti-Semitic inclinations did it. Why? The answer is well known – before the WWII, we had almost no friends among the Christians to defend us the Jews as members of the God’s human community – or even as the people, who created the foundation of Christian faith. It was not our fault that we did not have Christian friends – that is how the history has played itself for the last two millenniums.
However, the WWII and Holocaust, and then Islamic assault on the “infidels” who are mostly the Jews and Christians, created a spiritual environment for spiritual unification of Jews and Christians in a contemporary Judeo-Christian civilization. That is the only way to make future holocausts almost impossible.
Nevertheless, many rabbis still prefer having their communities isolated from the entire Judeo-Christian world and Rabbi Weiss has acted as a sort of their representative. It looks like, those rabbis believe that the Jewish faith is not strong enough to not only survive but also flourish in the presence of other challenging faiths. However, that is contrary to the Torah guidance and the mission of Jewish people as the Chosen.
I am with a non-rabbi Ronald Lauder and with former President of World Jewish Congress Edgar Bronfman who believe in a strong Jewish faith capable to flourish and advance itself in the Judeo-Christian realm and be spiritually friendly with Christianity and Christian people. That is the only way for creating a better world for everybody and eliminating the possibility of future holocausts.
We the Jews have to encourage the Christian leaders to visit Auschwitz, to pray with us, to create various spiritual Judeo-Christian organizations for fighting anti-Semitism and advancing a framework for building a better world for everybody with everybody.
The disagreements among Jews on almost everything is not something new – it has been always an important feature of Jewish character. From the very beginning, various Jewish groups were competing with each other for a “right way” of following the God’s guidance (codified in the Torah) in always challenging and changing life circumstances. During the Moses’ times: enter or not to enter the Promised Land? During the Roman times: fight the Roman political rule or not to fight? And nowadays: should an individual define himself whether he/she is a Jew or somebody else should tell him/her who he/she is?
From the very beginning, the Jews were split on how to define “a right way” of following the God’s guidance that is codified in the Torah.
If an individual Jew believes he/she is made indeed in the image and likeness of God, he or she is searching individually for “a right way”. The Jews, who have found similar “right ways”, form a collective to compete, hopefully peacefully, with other Jewish collectives. In the past, they were Pharisees, Sadducees, Essenes, Zealots and Sicarii; nowadays the Jews are split between various Orthodox, Conservative, Reform and Atheist movements.
However, many rabbis believe that a simple Jew is not able to search for “a right way” individually – a rabbi has to tell him or her what is right and what is wrong. It looks like those rabbis believe only they are made in the image and likeness of God and therefore are capable to search and find God’s “right way”.
From the news media by Dr. Afshine Emrani:
I’m a proud Jew who loves to shine the Jewish light onto the nations. But today, the Israeli Chief rabbinate rejection of this remarkable woman, Ivanka Trump, makes me put my head down in shame. Rabbi Lookstein who performed the conversion is a former Rabbi of one of the leading Orthodox synagogues in Manhattan and former principal of one of the preeminent Modern Orthodox schools, the Ramaz School. The decision of the Israeli religious court to reject Ivanka’s conversion to Judaism by this highly qualified and well respected Rabbi is a slap in the face to all Jews. This action is nothing short of religious dictatorship. I lived in Iran, I know. I recall how the Mullahs ruled. It’s the scream to stay in absolute power. It’s the tyrannical desire to rule the masses. It’s about the power to twist text into financial gains.
Thus, Ivanka Trump, who was not Jewish by birth, and a Jew by birth Jared Kushner have decided to build a Jewish family making this decision themselves, as human individuals made in the image and likeness of God, and Orthodox rabbi Lookstein taught them how to build a true Torah-guided Jewish family. Suddenly, the Orthodox rabbinic establishment of Israel got irritated by this new Jewish family and by their rabbi-teacher and declared only they have the authority to make a family Jewish. In other words, the Jewish Orthodox rabbinic establishment declared that a new Jewish family have to be in an image of God this establishment has created for a Jewish family – not in an image of God a Jewish family creates for itself individually.
From the news media by Rabbi Baruch Efrati:
The secular world and the observant world live side by side. The non-observant … are open to tikkun because of the light spilling over from the religious world existing beside them and their sacrifices for the Jewish people. The secular Jewish world does not want to take over the religious world from a theological point of view, but to live beside it – hence, the possibility of influencing that world, listening to its hearts’ desires, elevating its holy sparks to their heavenly source. The secular are actually non-observant Orthodox, they do not present an alternative organized religion that turns transgressions into an ideology intended to take the place of the Torah. … In contrast, the Reform Movement has a “progressive” ideology that wishes to exchange the Oral Law’s G-d-given message. It does not wish to ask questions about the Torah but to create a religious empire of its own. It has an organized theology that grants legitimacy to transgressions and turns them into religion. There is no possibility of living side by side, but a theological battle over who will lead the nation. Our dialogue is thus one between enemies, not lovers. It is either we or them, the holy or the ritually impure and their ideological rebellion against the Oral Law.
Thus, the Jewish Orthodox rabbinic establishment believes the non-religious, secular Jews are OK but the non-Orthodox religious people are … close to devilish ones. Both the non-religious secular and non-orthodox religious Jews have defined their God-guided Jewish way of life based on their own individual interpretation of the image of God codified in the Torah. However, the Jewish Orthodox rabbinic establishment want all Jews to be modeled in their own rabbinic image of God – not in the true image of God in the great variety of possible images a “Chosen” Jew can chose for him/her-self to create his/her own Jewish way of life that reflects an individual life circumstance.
The concept of Supreme Power over us the humans called God is vital for our human wellbeing. It is vital even for those who call themselves atheists. It is vital mainly not for the purpose of praying to God and asking for guidance and favors but most importantly for accepting God as the unchallenged source of our moral rules, which cannot be changed by us the humans.
That is why it is difficult for me to understand the reason for an orthodox rabbi Donniel Hartman to dethrone God from the first to the second place in Judaism.
From the news media:
Donniel Hartman, the head of an orthodox educational powerhouse, Shalom Hartman Institute, argues that the great monotheistic religions are fatally flawed — by an obsessive focus on God that overwhelms what should be our prime imperative, to live decent, moral lives.
Donniel Hartman insists his resonant call to put God second is not some superficial provocation. Rather, it is issued out of a conviction that “the more we put ethics first, the more I am a religious person” and the less that God is “a destructive force in our lives.”
The rabbi Hartman’s innovations are what indeed we need in Judaism and in other religions, for Jews and Gentiles, namely – to teach how to live decent, moral lives and how and why to put the ethics first. That is indeed necessary and long overdue – to bring back the true meaning of the duties of the Chosen, which are to build a better world for everybody with everybody – the world where the complete majority can live decent, moral lives along the lines of Torah/Bible guidance. However, to do all that we need to have God at the first place in our lives.
In order to decide whether we live decent, moral lives we have to define common basic characteristics of decency and morality. Those characteristics have to be alike for Jews and Christians of different spiritual streams from the ultra-Orthodox to the ultra-Atheists. In the Judeo-Christian world, without One God at the first place with His Torah/Bible-codified rules for decent, moral behavior, it is impossible to have decent, moral lives. The current rules for “decent, moral behavior” are different for many Jewish communities as well as for many Christian communities.
Here are just a few examples. Some believe in the decency of socialism-inspired redistribution of wealth with the “helping hand” of the government while the others support free-market capitalist system with the mitzvah/charity helping hands. Some believe in the absolute morality of “do not do to the others what I do not want to be done to me” while the others consider to be just the severe punishment of devilish people. Some believe that only a family of man-woman-children is decent and moral while the others do not see anything wrong with a gay family. Some believe the decency demands considering a person to be Jewish if he himself believe so while the others trust in a rabbi’s decision on the Jewishness.
Thus, what principles are decent and moral enough to be used for building a better world for everybody, even for everybody inside the Jewish nation? I do not see any other approach but – in the course of competitive spiritual and peaceful discussions – to find it in the guidance of God at the first place.
The history tried to do it without God as was done for example in Stalin’s Russia, in Hitler’s Germany and in Mao’s China and the result was millions and millions of murdered people.
From the news media:
An Israeli rabbinical court did not accept a conversion by an Orthodox rabbi who also helped Ivanka Trump become Jewish.
In the latest case exemplifying the tension between Israel’s rabbinate and Orthodox groups in the Diaspora, a religious court prevented the marriage of an Israeli man and an American woman, who converted under a well-respected New York rabbi, Haskel Lookstein.
And in an unusual twist, which has brought the case into the limelight, Lookstein is also the rabbi who converted Ivanka Trump and officiated at her wedding to Jewish real-estate scion Jared Kushner, an advisor for presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump.
That is one more example of bad moral rabbinical prescripts as the result of removing God from finding proper Torah/Bible-guided decisions.
At Mount Sinai, some human tribe had become Jewish since it decided to follow the God’s prescriptions on “decent, moral lives”. If somebody decides now to follow these prescriptions, this person is Jewish by God’s definition, and no human rabbinical court can change it.
The true meaning of Brexit is simple and powerful: that is a spiritual separation from the others to preserve and strengthen the own identity and moral foundation (own spirituality). For the nation of UK, it is like the Exodus for the Jews that let the Jewish nation solidify and further develop the Jewish unique identity and moral foundation.
The entity we call the humanity consists of spiritually competing nations. A spiritually competing nation should not hate the others – it should peacefully compete with the others to become “the light for the others”, or should peacefully change itself if it sees something more attractive in the life of the others, or should peacefully isolate itself from the others if it cannot change or compete.
In the political realm – not in the religious one, the first known Brexit was done by the Jewish nation with the Exodus from Egypt and then at the Mount of Sinai. There the Jews decided to split from the others to preserve and strengthen their own identity based on the God’s Torah-guided rules of behavior that distinguished the Jews from the others, and the new spirituality/identity of this nation was codified under the name of Judaism. In the religious terms, this Jewish identity was to obey the God’s commandments presented in the Torah – in the political terms, that was to strengthen the true individual freedoms – in the image and likeness of God, translated in the contemporary world into a free market economic/social system of government.
Just 68 years ago, the Jewish nation made another Brexit from the others and formed the state of Israel, where the Jewish nation can practice its spirituality on its own without overwhelming influence of the others.
The Brexit of UK from the EU dictatorship is of the same “Jewish” spiritual nature – to get rid of the evil of all-powerful EU government, which is forcing the people of UK to surrender its national identity to the newly invented, politically correct “humanity” identity.
Now, the same kind of revolt in making could be observed in other countries of EU such as Hungary or Greece for example.
America made its first Brexit at the end of 18th century by splitting from the authoritarian UK monarchy to preserve and further develop a newly created Judeo-Christian Bible-based identity with a free market economic/social system and strictly limited government that was codified in the Declaration of Independence and Constitution. At such system of governing, the government was helping the people enhance their Judeo-Christian spirituality with the free-market and social freedoms.
However, in the course of the last about one hundred years the US government has been increasing its power – slowly, in small steps – and by now it has more power than the people have. With the changes in the small steps, it was difficult to understand that those small steps were creating a new political and social reality where the politicians were using the system for their own spiritual and financial empowerment and enrichment at the cost of the people.
The new Brexit-type movement in the USA, which some call “Trump-ism” (Donald Trump is just a messenger of this movement) is a revolt of the Judeo-Christian majority against the all-powerful US government of any party affiliation. That is a sort of American Exodus to make “America great again” – great in the Judeo-Christian identity and spirituality.
The Exodus/Brexit supporters do not hate anybody, they are not racists or anti-immigration bigots – they respect all immigrants of different races, nations or religions assuming those immigrants support the Judeo-Christian identity of an Exodus/Brexit country where they reside, and ready to be assimilated. However, the Exodus/Brexit supporters believe those who are unable to adjust to the Judeo-Christian identity should live happily in the countries of their own identities.